Somehow, seeing a milestone musical on a milestone of my theater-going career (my 300th Broadway show) seems entirely appropriate. That that production is a groundbreaking, highly unusual (for that show, anyway) mounting is even more appropriate. That's because Daniel Fish's stunning, often disturbing take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic Oklahoma! is just the kind of show I love. All by itself, this work has been groundbreaking - the original is oft credited as being the first modern musical. But this very modern, highly sexualized and violent version - without changing a word of the original - resonates in a very modern, current way, while making it clear why its first audiences in the early 40's were taken aback. It isn't quaint and charming. Far from it. It is a scathing indictment of both the American West and our country's gun obsessed culture.
|The Oklahoma! Company|
|Damon Daunno and Mary Testa|
|Ali Stroker and James Davis|
|Rebecca Naomi Jones and Damon Daunno|
|Patrick Vaill and Will Brill|
The title number, sung twice, sums up this production perfectly. The first time, more traditionally, it is a rousing tribute to the American way. All smiles and in full voice, the company sells the number. "Sells" is the key word here - as if loud singing and big grins means happiness and pride. The second time, they sing it with as much gusto, nearly shouting it at us. There are no smiles, just shock and angry, hard boot stomping. It is a grim ending to a superb, game-changing revival. I left exhilarated and angry, joyous and disturbed. OK!
📸: J. Kyler, L. Fang